Review of Ian Haywood and John Seed (eds), The Gordon Riots: Politics, Culture and Insurrection in late Georgian Britain (Oxford UP, 2012)

Research output: Contribution to Specialist PublicationReview

Abstract

The Gordon Riots: Politics, Culture and Insurrection in Late Eighteenth-Century Britain. Edited by Ian Haywood and John Seed. Pp. xiii + 273, 17 figures. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. £60. ISBN 9780521195423. Hardback.

The Gordon Riots seem to be having their scholarly moment. Numerous historians and cultural critics are currently working on them. The coincidence of this with the London riots of 2011 lent this activity an air of topicality, as academics took to the airwaves and the blogosphere to discuss the parallels. Like the 2011 riots, they present a problem for the left, keen to identify an honourable social meaning in events that appear to elude one, starting, as the 1780 riots did, with religious intolerance and xenophobia, and ending with theft and destruction. Since the 1950s, historians of riot have tried to shoehorn the Gordon Riots into a Marxist model of social protest, emphasizing that the rioters’ targets were wealthy individuals and institutions of an oppressive state. The introduction to this volume offers a brief survey of this literature, and then poses a series of new questions in an attempt to take the debate forwards. The editors have assembled an impressive list of contributors, divided equally between history and literature. Collections of essays are often diverse affairs, but in this case that seems to be the point, since the editors assert that ‘there is no single narrative that we can call “the Gordon riots” and no single conceptual framework that can contain them’ (15).
Original languageEnglish
Pages167-168
Number of pages2
Volume38
No.2
Specialist publicationThe London Journal
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2013

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